Just days after I reported that an effective COVID-19 vaccine is highly unlikely, the pharmaceutical company Moderna issued a press release touting promising results from early human trials. People assumed I was wrong.
But I’m doubling down. Moderna’s vaccine trials have probably already failed, and Moderna’s “encouraging” press release proves it.
Coronavirus Vaccines Are Unlikely #
From The Humane Approach to Coronavirus Is to Open Up Everything published May 16:
There Probably Won’t Be a Coronavirus Vaccine: Since early March, researchers around the world have been warning us that a vaccine for Coronavirus is highly unlikely for a straightforward reason: they have been searching for vaccines against Coronaviruses for decades and have never produced one. None.
The post quoted Dr. Ian Frazer, the doctor who invented the vaccine for HPV, who gave a simple reason why a Coronavirus vaccine is unlikely: Coronaviruses infect the upper respiratory system which outside the body’s natural immune system. “And finding a way to neutralise the virus “outside” of the body is very difficult.”
At the time, cities and states were saying they would not re-open until a vaccine was found regardless of the human misery the lockdown caused. I argued that the most humane approach was to reach herd immunity as quickly as possible without overwhelming the healthcare system.
Then, Moderna announced a breakthrough.
Moderna’s Press Release on Human Trials Boosted Stocks #
Just two days later, I looked like an idiot when Moderna announced that all 45 subjects of their human vaccine trials had developed high levels of “neutralizing antibodies,” proving the vaccine was effective.
Moderna said the levels of antibodies in the subjects were higher than those of people who’d naturally fought off the disease.
Everyone from the President on down hailed the results as a breakthrough. The stock market took off like a rocket.
But I didn’t change my position on herd immunity. And I’m glad I didn’t.
Moderna’s Announcement Fell Apart #
Skepticism of Moderna’s announcement rippled through the scientific community almost immediately. But the mainstream media largely ignored calls to take Moderna’s report with a grain of salt. The press argued that we could now accept the extended lockdown because a vaccine is on its way.
The skeptics noticed some signs of BS in Moderna’s press release and in the behavior of Moderna’s executives in response to questions from researchers.
STAT News, on May 19, published a story titled: Vaccine experts say Moderna didn’t produce data critical to assessing Covid-19 vaccine:
While Moderna blitzed the media, it revealed very little information — and most of what it did disclose were words, not data. That’s important: If you ask scientists to read a journal article, they will scour data tables, not corporate statements. With science, numbers speak much louder than words.
The experts' skepticism seems justified.
Even the figures the company did release don’t mean much on their own, because critical information — effectively the key to interpreting them — was withheld.
Additionally, the NIAID co-sponsored the trials but refused to comment on Moderna’s press release. Dr. Fauci is the head of NIAID and has no fear of publicity. But he said nothing. And the NIAID has a history of tooting its own horn. So, why wouldn’t Fauci have claimed credit for this?
Then, Moderna corrected its initial claim that all 45 patients developed antibodies. The actual number was just 8 subjects. Moderna would not answer whether the other 37 subjects were not tested or failed to produce antibodies. They still won’t answer.
Further, Moderna’s press release language was vague and misleading. Again, from STAT News:
Moderna stated that the antibody levels seen were on a par with — or greater than, in the case of the 100-microgram dose — those seen in people who have recovered from Covid-19 infection.
But studies have shown antibody levels among people who have recovered from the illness vary enormously; the range may be influenced by the severity of a person’s disease. John “Jack” Rose, a vaccine researcher from Yale University, pointed STAT to a study from China that showed that, among 175 recovered Covid-19 patients studied, 10 had no detectable neutralizing antibodies. Recovered patients at the other end of the spectrum had really high antibody levels.
So though the company said the antibody levels induced by vaccine were as good as those generated by infection, there’s no real way to know what that comparison means.
STAT asked Moderna for information on the antibody levels it used as a comparator. The response: That will be disclosed in an eventual journal article from NIAID, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
Got that? Because of the significant variance in levels of antibodies found in recovered patients, saying levels “on par with” or “greater than” naturally occurring antibodies is meaningless.
It’s pretty clear that Moderna’s press release was bogus. It was designed to fool the general public, but it didn’t fool people who develop vaccines for a living.
So why did they do it?
Failure of the Trial Likely Triggered Moderna’s Press Release #
About May 15, Moderna likely realized the vaccine was a flop. I’m guessing that 8 of the 45 subjects developed antibodies, but 37 did not. Or they produced such weak antibodies as to be useless against the live virus.
But the US government is funding the trials. If Moderna simply said, “Sorry, but it didn’t work,” that funding would go away.
Further, since the NIAID is involved in the research, Moderna knew it couldn’t hide the results from the government for long. NIAID would quietly cut off funding once it determined the vaccine didn’t work. So, Moderna’s officials had to act fast.
Moderna issued the “encouraging” press release on a Monday morning, just before stock markets opened. And they didn’t only release it: they made a show of it, making executives widely available to the press. In STAT News’s words, Moderna “blitzed the media.”
And Moderna executives wasted no time cashing in.
Moderna Executives Dumped $30 Million in Stocks #
Here’s the big headline from CNN Business on May 22:
And the dirty details:
Moderna’s stock price skyrocketed as much as 30% on Monday after the biotech company announced promising early results for its coronavirus vaccine. As ordinary investors piled in, two insiders were quietly heading for the exits.
Maybe it was just bad timing? Probably not. The two executives who dumped stock were the chief financial officer and chief medical officer—the two people who would understand best what clinical-trial failure would mean for the company’s finances.
Moderna’s chief financial officer and chief medical officer executed options and sold nearly $30 million of shares combined on Monday and Tuesday, SEC filings reviewed by CNN Business show.
And it gets worse. Moderna looks more like a shell company than an actual pharmaceutical company:
The sales occurred after Moderna (MRNA) excited Wall Street before markets opened Monday by announcing encouraging vaccine trial results. Moderna’s market value swelled to $29 billion – even though the company has no marketed products.
Moderna has no products in the market. It’s a shell.
Was Fauci Fooled or Complicit? #
The big questions: how did Moderna pull off this caper under Dr. Fauci’s nose? And why hasn’t the NIAID released what it knows about the Moderna trials thus far?
The NIAID surely vetted Moderna before authorizing their trials, didn’t they? They had to know Moderna has no products.
Even more astonishing is the fact that NIAID has not disclosed the number Moderna’s executives refused to release, including:
What were the absolute levels of antibodies produced in those 8 subjects?
How have those antibodies held up over time?
And, most importantly, what about the other 37 subjects?
Until Moderna or NIAID or someone answers these questions, I’m sticking with my proclamation of May 16: the most humane thing to do is open the economy as quickly and fully as possibly.